Monthly Archives: March 2000

The Sordid History of Keep America Beautiful (KAB)

By Dom Nozzi

From Environment Journal, 3/72:

*”The Can Manufacturers Institute and the Glass Container Manufacturers Institute teamed with the U.S. Brewers Association and the National Soft Drink Bottlers Association to form the vehicle for public education against littering, “Keep America Beautiful, Inc.”…It initially seemed a paradox that these same agencies would vigorously and successfully oppose the reduction in generation of solid waste and litter and at the same time promote anti-littering campaigns.”

Undated list [probably mid-1980s] — Florida Coalition Against Forced Deposits [Bottle Bill]

List includes Pepsi, Florida Chamber of Commerce, Tobacco Institute, US Brewers Association, Beer Industry of Florida, Retail Grocery Assn of Florida, Miller Brewing, Coca Cola, Florida Soft Drink Assn, Glass Packing Institute, Anheuser-Busch, Inc., Florida Petroleum Marketers, Coors, International Council of Shopping Centers, Owens-Illinois, Reynolds Aluminum, Tupperware, and KEEP AMERICA BEAUTIFUL.

Elizabeth Byrd, 7/3/88 letter to the Gainesville (FL) Sun:

“Underneath KAB’s glossy, all American exterior lies a bottle-bill-busting group of business people from the packaging and bottling industry, whose goal is to direct the limelight of litter away from themselves and onto the consumer.

“The general theme is that manufacturers don’t create waste, individuals do.

Industry, they argue, should not be held responsible for waste created by the consumer.”

“Environmental groups such as The Sierra Club, the League of Women Voters, Audubon Society and Future Farmers realized KABs motives back in 1976 and withdrew their support of the program after American Can Company’s chairman, William F. Mays, stood up at a meeting in New York and called for KAB to bash the bottle bill referendum that was to appear on November’s ballot.

KABs Clean Community Systems receive generous support from the beverage and bottling industry.

Citizens tied to a group that does not support the bottle bill will only work to weaken the established support for bottle bill legislation.

As the House Committee on Natural Resource’s evaluation of existing programs for litter reduction point out, KABs programs suffer from a high rate of recidivism and approach the problem in a piecemeal fashion.

Maryland’s Citizens Against Waste note in their study on waste that up to two thirds of KAB communities drop out. Citizens get tired of cleaning up after their neighbors, notice no decrease in waste disposal problems and quit in frustration. The program can prove to be quite an expensive mistake.

Does KAB really deal with the root of the waste problem? It depends on what you consider the problem. Yes, KAB deals with the problem if your aim is to keep the bottle bill out of the Florida legislature. No, it does not effectively deal with the problem if your goal is waste reduction in your community.”

From a Jan/Feb 2000 article in Quality Cities, a Florida League of Cities magazine:

“In its 8th year, the Florida Great American Cleanup is Keep Florida Beautiful’s centerpiece event.”

“The…Cleanup is part of the second annual national Great American Cleanup…”

“The expanded 2000 Florida Great American Cleanup is possible because of the support of a national partnership involving Keep America Beautiful [KAB] and the Clorox Company (makers of Glad Wraps and Bags) and other sponsors. All this is ultimately made possible in Florida because of the exclusive, premier sponsorship of Publix Supermarkets.

“The Florida Great American Cleanup is more than just a spring cleanup. It will include more than 1,000 communities…

“The Florida Great American Cleanup reflects Keep America Beautiful’s strategic direction for the 21st Century — a national signature event focused on litter prevention, beautification and individual involvement.

This program event is designed to support KAB affiliates, private and public partners, provide new sources of funding and sponsor partnerships, membership opportunities, and will continue to grow into a national millennium event.

“The Florida Great American Cleanup depends upon Florida’s foundation network of 38 KAB affiliates, and KABs priority partners, including the Florida District of Kiwanis, Florida’s Key Clubs, Florida League of Cities, Florida Leader Magazine, FDOT Adopt-a-Highway, and KFB Adopt-a-Shore programs.”

In sum, as my graduate school bottle bill research demonstrated, the bottling and beverage industries—not to mention the grocers and related materials industries—realize LARGE profits when they are able to EXTERNALIZE the costs (litter, waste disposal, energy, etc.) on society at large, instead of internalizing those costs on the consumers of beverages. In other words, it is much more profitable to major corporations have throw-away beverage containers, which explains why they fight so long and hard against the only effective means of internalizing those costs: A bottle bill.

Sadly, these anti-bottle bill forces have hit upon an effective tool to stop bottle bill legislation: Funding nationwide, volunteer “anti-litter” campaigns led by KAB. After all, who could possibly be against something as Mom and Apple Pie as litter control? It is no wonder that communities across the nation have spent large amounts of taxpayer dollars over the past several years to subsidize an effort which indirectly subverts the bottle bill.

What a terrible outrage, to think that taxpayer dollars are working against our only effective anti-litter tool: The bottle bill.

Yet how typical.

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